Clearing the Record
Why do motorists get angry with cyclists? I think one reason is that motorists might feel scared when confronted with a cyclist in “their” lane. I have to admit that cyclists can be unpredictable. If there is a giant pothole in the road, I’m going to swerve. And I guarantee that I won’t have time to check for cars over my shoulder. It is kind of a catch 22 as well. Checking over my shoulder causes me to wobble. Understandable enough. So, it is for this reason that I make an effort to ride intentionally straight and steady. To all those motorists out there, I am trying to safely cohabit the lane with you so that I don’t get killed and you don’t get a dent in your hood.
A word about cyclists following road rules
Firstly, rules, in my opinion, are guidelines. Really. How many of us have rolled through stop signs or run a red light when we thought no one was watching? I think motorists have forgotten about their minor infractions when they are honking at me for running a stop sign. It takes effort for a cyclist to come to a full stop and then get the wheels revolving again. For the motorist, it takes a slight pressure of the foot. Yet I incite anger. For what? Running the stop sign? Getting ahead for five seconds? Granted,bicycle commuting is a choice, but I wonder if motorists considered the effort spent to power a bicycle, if they couldn’t be a little more compassionate. Motorists arrive in one-quarter of the time(depending on distance and traffic), with none of the effort.
Completely different animals,in my opinion, the car and the bicycle, yet they are expected to follow the same rules. On my bicycle, I am not allowed on the sidewalk (so dangerous anyway and even more annoying for cars) yet I am not accompanied as an equal on the road. A cyclist is exposed to the elements while a motorist is generally 100% enclosed. A motorist gets a bug on the windshield while I get a bug in my eye. I am scared on the road sometimes. Literally scared for my life. It is quite a heart jumper to experience the wind of a vehicle inches away.
A word on “jumping ahead”
I feel rude sometimes for not waiting my turn at red lights. However, rather than suck your exhaust, I prefer to be first in line. Not to mention,this enables oncoming traffic, which might be turning, to notice me first. That isn’t so possible if I am further back in the line.
A shout out to the kind motorists who slow down and let me merge off Mopac onto the Ben White frontage road. This is one of the most difficult intersections to navigate safely on a bike. Thank you.
I am NOT waving to you
Bicyclists are supposed to respect motorists and visa versa. Sometimes I think that my respect might be in disguise. For example, if I run a red light while you have to patiently wait at said light, it might be because it is safer for both of us for me to get a head start. This gesture is misinterpreted as my arrogance that I don’t have to wait at the light, that I have an advantage over the motorist, etc, etc, etc… Sometimes I break the rules so that I have a less likely chance to be killed on the road. I make an effort to let my actions be known to motorists. If I am turning and I feel safe enough to take my hands off the wheel, I signal. It is unfortunate that many motorists aren’t familiar with these hand signals. Like the guy who thought I was waving to him while signaling to turn right.
Overall, I love biking Austin!
It has been a really long time since we’ve blogged—hum, guess that isn’t a Microsoft sanctioned word yet. Thanks to those who actually check it and gently urge us to update!
Well, I will begin with a brief update of Tom since I am authoring this section. Tom has gotten comfortable with his facial hair lately and it just keeps growing and growing and…
He has some new foot infections that he is nursing back to health. He won’t deny that he is pretty excited to return back to good ole’ sterile U S of A!
Our close of service conference, or COS conference as Peace Corps calls it, is March 4-6. Can you believe it has almost been two years?!
I have been in Tana for entirely way too long. My friend, Martin, was awarded money from the US Embassy for our library project and we were required to receive it in person.
The date happened to fall two and a half weeks before my mom came to visit. So add two and a half weeks plus the three weeks we were on vacation and we have been away from site for almost two months.
So… “The Vacation”. I am not sure my mom will agree with me as to whether or not she was actually on vacation. The word vacation implies relaxation, ease of going, fun, etc… Madagascar is a difficult place to access. Flights are limited and very expensive so we had to do some “broussing” (bush taxiing). One thing is for sure… we definitely have some stories to trade, my mom and I! Here are some pictures to show you the wonderful things we saw in Madagascar.
My mom and 16 year-old nephew, Shawn, arrived in Tana on November 16 after a 6 hour layover in Paris. We spent a few days in Tana recovering from jet lag and then set off towards Mananara-Nord. We flew with a missionary organization called MAF and Shawn got to sit in the co-pilot’s chair.
Landing strip in Mandritsara, a town about three days walk from our site.
Upon arrival in Mananara, we had to eat our weight in letchis. Letchis are delicious red fruits that only come into season for about a month every year. And they only ripen on the tree so they are difficult to save.
We headed out to a small island nearby called Aye-Aye Island, famous for the rare lemur, the Aye-Aye. We weren’t patient enough to actually see it but I think we were satisfied with the coconuts anyway!
From there we visited our village, Imorona but those pictures were all on Shawn’s camera and were subsequently erased… so you’ll have to fill in the gaps.
Then up to Maroantsetra. The 114km stretch of road north isn’t so bad but the bridges are notoriously rotten. In addition to the bridges, there are also six major river crossings. We decided it would be best to hire our own vehicle as to minimize suffering during my mom’s first taxi brousse ride.
Here we are lounging around in the back of the Toyota 4x4.
Typical method of crossing the river. Notice the bridge has seen better days, but the guy dragging the bamboo fery doesn't seem to mind.
Random fishing guys seen on our way to Nosy Manga Be.
Random photo of Nosy Manga Be.
Our destination: Nosy Mangabe. Nosy means island and mangabe, we learned, has many meanings. Most simply it means big mangos or big blue. But history has it that slaves were kept on the island as well. Mango trees were planted to feed the slaves so slave became to mean manga. Along with the history of the island we saw many interesting critters.
Cool little frog.
We got lucky to see this little guy. He was standing guard, but he didn't mind us walking by.
This guy is awesome, he is seen here asleep. The leaf-tailed gecko is very common on Nosy Manga Be.
An alert leaf-tailed gecko.
Vinsty, malagasy king fisher.
Cute little bat hanging around under a large rock.
Malagasy tree boa.
Next stop—Diego Suarez. The first thing that struck us right off the plane was the cute, yellow taxis outside the airport.
We decided that we would head south to Ankarana to see the crazy karst-filled landscape.
Standard taxi bus on a good road. Of couse we had to stop many times to add water and fix a flat.
Park view before the landscape turned to rocks.
Suspension bridge built by the Malagasy from imported supplies purchased from entry fees.
Rocky view of Lynne and Tom.
Cicada. There were lots of them and as we left some natives where going to harvest them for food. They are also known as Malagasy Pop Corn.
The next day we went to Emerald Island. We were lucky enough to spot three manta rays and a sea turtle on our boat ride to the island—no pics but very memorable.
Picture of the boat leaving Emerald Island to catch lunch.
Back to Tana for a night and then out to visit our host family. It was very sweet to see my host family and my mom together. They gave us a warm reception and we shared a meal in their home. My mom was finally glad to meet the woman who took care of us upon our arrival to Madagascar two Februarys ago.
And finally, our last stop. We visited Jonathan, fellow volunteer in Andasibe National Park.
Cool little bug, Malagascar giraffe beetle.
Babakoto, largest living lemur.
Another leaf-tailed gecko, but different from the Nosy Manga Be dude.
I think we sufficiently wore out my mom and Shawn for their 1:30a.m. departure from Tana.
Hotel lesson not learned
Saturday night I was on the Net thinking that I should find a hotel. David told me, he was staying in tamatave that night. It was dark and I was not going to ride the twelve K back to his site. I didn’t learn my lesson from the other night. I still didn’t make a reservation. I thought I could get a room at the Lionel, but I forgot about the wedding that was in town. I checked the hotel and of course it was full. I stopped off at a hotel close to the internet place thinking I could get lucky, but they were all booked up. They did save me a trip across town and gave me Marotia’s phone number, but yet again, they didn’t have a room. Then I turned around to the desk guy speaking French to me. After some back and forth, me telling him I don’t know French speaking in Malagasy, he finally understood that I didn’t speak French, we got on the same page. He would let me sleep in the upstairs common room if I got out by 6:00 am, for 10,000 AR (5 bucks). It sounded good to me, so he pocketed the money and I got a nice place to crash, win-win situation. I got up at 5:30am, hung out for a little bit downstairs and left. He made sure that I was gone before his boss showed up. The term he used was “Tsy ambara in-telo” meaning “don’t tell a third person”.
Death in the family
Here is a little story that happen a couple of months ago. Our pet lizard died. He was not really a pet. He ran free eating anything sweet. He particularly liked honey, but would nibble on fruit. It was a tragedy waking up and going into our “kitchen”, our other room, and finding our lizard friend in a bowl of water. It looked like he drowned, he was dead. We were saddened because he was a source of entertainment and beauty. Without effort, we provided food. Where there is food …. Sure enough another lizard moved in.
In other house animal news, we had a mother mouse move in. She would make a terrible rack at night. We finally found her nest in our cupboard. I reinforced the structure to discourage her return. We didn’t know at the time that she had a litter. When we found it we decided to move the younglings outside. She only moved three, the other three died. For a short while they were part of our family.